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Gordon, Cosmo 


Books on accountancy, 



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MAIN ENTRY: Gordon. Cosmo 

Books on accountancy. 1494-1600 

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i'P^aaf 16 Marchy 1^14. 

'HE origins of the system of book-keeping by double 
entry have not yet been fully investigated. It is known 
to have been first practised in Italy, and has conse- 
quently been referred to as the Italian method almost 
down to the present day, though this reminder of its 
history has now dropped out of the text-books. 

As has often been pointed out, double entry was not consciously 
invented by any one man, though there must have been an occasion on 
which it occurred for the first time to a book-keeper that his record of 
a particular transaction was not complete unless he kept his accounts 
from the point of view of those with whom he dealt as well as from his 
own and thus produced a balance by which to check both. When that 
occasion was no one can exactly say, but it probably fell soon after the 
beginning of the fourteenth century, at Genoa or Florence. The system 
was perfected in the course of the next hundred and fifty years, and 
was in a high state of efificiency when the printing press came to spread 
the practice to the rest of Europe. There it drove out and superseded 
the primitive methods of accounting which had satisfied the needs of a 
less organised commerce. 

No complete history of double-entry book-keeping has yet been 
written. The researches of Dr. Ernst Ludwig Jager of Stuttgart and of 






Karel Peter Kheil of Prague have paved the way, while histories of the 
science in the country of its origin have been written by Signor rag. 
Bariola^ and by Signor Brambilla." Dr. Heinrich Sieveking has written 
on Italian and German origins, and late in 1913 was published a very 
complete history of book-keeping in Germany, by Dr. Penndorf.^ It is 
known that Dr. KheiH had a universal history in manuscript at the time 
of his death in 1905, and it is to be hoped that an editor may be found 
who is capable of completing and publishing his work. Mr. Richard 
Brown of Edinburgh has edited a History of Accounting and Accountants 
in which is given a summary of hitherto published information together 
with much additional matter from the pen of Mr. J. Row Fogo. Mr. 
H. A. Woolf ■"' of the Inner Temple has also written a short history. The 
bibliography of the subject is in much the same fragmentary condition. 
National bibliographies have appeared for Italy, ^' France,' and the Low 
Countries,^ and attempts at general bibliographies are included in the 
Histories of Messrs. Brown and Woolf. 

It is not the aim of this paper, nor within the competence of the 
writer to give a history of book-keeping ; even a complete bibliography is 
too wide a task within the time available for its compilation, but it may 
be serviceable to describe the most important works published before the 
year 1600 when the science was spreading with rapid strides over Europe 

(i) F^linio Bariola. Sioria della ragioneria italiana. Milan, 1897. 

{2) Guiseppe Brambilla. Storia della ragioneria italiana. Milan, 1901. 

(3) Ij. Penndorf. Geschichte der Buchhaltung in Deutschland. Leipzig, 1913. 

(4) Dr. Kheil industriously collected books on book-keeping of all ages for more than 
forty years and got together 1,700 volumes, including many important early books. This 
collection is now in the possession of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England 
and Wales. 

(5) H. A. Woolf. A short history of accountants and accountancy. London, 1912. 

(6) Elenco cronologico delle opere di computisteria e ragioneria venule alle luce in Italia 
[by G. Cerboni]. Rome, 1889. 

(7) G. Reymondin. Bihliographie methodique des Ouvrages en langue francaise parus 
de 1343 a igoS sur la science des comptes. Paris, 1 909. 

(8) J. Hagers. Bouwstoffen voor de Geschiedenis van het boekhouden in de Neder- 
landen. Rotterdam, 1903. 

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from its birth-place in Italy, and in some cases to show the relation of 
these works to one another. 


The earliest work on book-keeping falls just within the limits of the 
fifteenth century. It is a book of great importance, written by the 
foremost mathematician of his day, and giving so clear and good an 
exposition of the science that it was the foundation for nearly all the 
useful work of the succeeding century.^ 

This is the Sunwia de Arithmetical Geometria, Proportioni et Pro- 
portionalita of Lucas Pacioli of Borgo San Sepolcro, which was printed 
at Venice by Paganino de Paganini, and dated in the colophon 10 Nov. 
1494. The book is a folio, and presents no very unusual features to an 
eye accustomed to the rather ponderous volumes which were freely 
produced by the Venetian presses of the late fifteenth century. 

Of the 308 leaves which make up the book only thirteen are devoted 
to book-keeping. The pages are, however, large and closely printed : the 
book-keeping section in Kheil's reprint occupies 80 average octavo pages. 
Pacioli's book also contains the earliest printed treatise on algebra and 
summarises the mathematical knowledge of his day. 

There are eight leaves of prefatory matter, without signature. On the 
second of these is a dedicatory epistle to Pacioli's patron, the Duke of 
Urbino, in which the author surveys contemporary achievements in Science 
and Art, mentioning by name his former master, Piero della Francesca, 
and calling him "the monarch of painting in these times." The dedica- 
tory epistle is repeated in Latin, and the next two pages are devoted to a 
summary of the contents of the volume, in which the rather dispropor- 
tionate prominence given to Accounting shows that the author did not 
regard the section as a mere appendix to his mathematical work. 

(i) Mr. J. B. Geijsbeek {Ancient Double Entry Book-keeping, p. 9) overstates this. 
Gammersfelder in Germany, Mennher and Petri in the Low Countries, Salvador de 
Solorzano in Spain, and a few others, must be regarded as original authors. 

L 2 

^.....^ .^ intfTTi^m 





The recto of sign, a i begins the text. It is surrounded by a wood- 
cut intagho border of strapwork, and in the large woodcut initial L there 
is represented a Franciscan friar holding a pair of compasses. This may 
or may not be a portrait of the author, but it may safely be asserted to be 
more like him than the fanciful bust many times reproduced by the 
historians of book-keeping. The initial occurs again in several parts of 
the book. 

The Summa de Arithmetica occurs in two states. In the first the 
body of the text is printed in Proctor's type 8, a medium-sized gothic. 
On sign, a i, on which the text begins, there is the broad wood-cut border 
and portrait-initial L already described. In the second state of the 
Summa, of which the copy in the British Museum is an example, not 
only do the wood-cut border and initial disappear from a i, but sigs. a-c 
with the two outside leaves of sigs. d and e, and the outside leaf of 
sig. a, are printed in Proctor's type 10**, a type not observed by him 
in any other book from Paganino's press. There are no changes in 
the text of the reprinted pages, but that they are reprinted is clear 
from the fact that incorrect head-lines are usually corrected, and that 
the type of the remaining pages in copies which contain the reprints 
shows signs of longer use than in copies where the text type does not 
vary. It may be supposed that a certain number of the sheets of the 
signatures in question were accidentally destroyed, and that type 8 was 
already in use. The sheets had, therefore, to be supplied in the nearest 
available type. 

Fra Luca's book is divided into two parts, the first consisting of 
224 leaves dealing with arithmetic ; the second, of 76 leaves, with geometry. 
The thirteen leaves beginning on the verso of leaf 197 of the first part and 
ending on the verso of leaf 210 are entitled Distinciio ?iona. Tractatus 
undecimus pariicularis de computis et scripturis^ and are devoted to book- 
keeping. A full and remarkably clear account of this section from a 
professional point of view, written by Mr. J. Row Fogo, C.A., is included 
in Mr. Richard Brown's History of Accounting and Accoufitants. It is, 

therefore, unnecessary to do more than state that Fra Luca describes the 
best commercial practice of Venice, and that in essentials his book-keeping 
resembles that which is in use to this day. 

The twelfth tcact of the ninth distinction which immediately succeeds 
the book-keeping portion of the Summa de Arithmetica had been printed 
before at Florence in 1481.^ It treats of the rates of exchange between 
the towns of Italy, and the Florentine edition is anonymous. It is there- 
fore uncertain whether Pacioli was himself the author or merely reprinted 
a work which seemed to him of value.- 

A second edition of the Summa de Arithmetica was printed in 1523 
after Paganino had moved to the village of Toscolano on the Lago di 
Garda. It is surprising that so large a book should have been printed 
at so small a village, and I believe that the reason for Paganino's move 
is to be found in the remarkable title of the book, which is eloquent on 
the attractions of his new home. After naming the book, it continues : 
" newly printed at Toscolano on the shore of the Lake of Benaco most 
renowned for carp : a most agreable spot, famous for the ancient and 
evident ruins of the noble city of Benaco : dowered with numberless 
Imperial epitaphs cut in ancient and beautiful letters, and with marbles 
of the finest and most admirable colours, and quantities of fragments of 
alabaster, porphyry, and serpentine. Dear reader you may be sure on the 
word of an eye-witness that hidden underground there are objects worthy 
of admiration." ^ 

Henry Morley in his life of Jerome Cardan remarks : " Fra Luca, 
with a clerical enjoyment of good living, took so heartily to the fine carp 
of the lake that he could not forbear from making honourable mention 

(i) Questo e el libro chc tracta di mercantie et usanze de paesi. 40. Florence, 
Francesco di Dino, 1481. Dec. 10. 

(2) The question is fully discussed in V. Vianello Luca Pacioli nella storia delta 
ragioneria. Messina. 1896. 

(3) The second edition is printed to imitate the first very closely ; the title-page has 
been made a more important feature as was now the fashion. It is surrounded by an 
inferior copy of the strapwork border of 1494. 




of them on his title-page." The fact is that Fra Luca died in 15 14, nine 
years before the second edition was printed, and therefore this enthusiastic 
title-page must be the work of the Venetian printer enjoying the beauties 
of the Lake of Garda. 

In a preface to a treatise on book-keeping by Andreas Wagner,^ 
published at Magdeburg in 1802, the author states that he is the possessor 
of a book of which he gives the following description : " La Scuola 
perfetta dei mercanti. Des Fra Paciolo da santo sepulchro. Venetia, 
1504. In this book," continues Wagner, "which consists of 246 very 
badly printed pages, and is dedicated to Giacomo Brunani, the Head of 
the German House at Venice, is to be found firstly an explanation of the 
contemporary Venetian coins and weights, secondly a very short method 
of calculation, and lastly, in an appendix, a treatise on double entry 
book-keeping." No copy of the book thus described by Wagner is known 
to exist and much has been written on the question whether it be really 
by Pacioli. It is not mentioned in a schedule of his works presented by 
him to the Venetian Senate in 1508 with an application for copyright, 
and it is known that in the year 1504 he was not at Venice to superintend 
its production. It is therefore probable that the conclusion reached by 
Prof. Vianello- is right, that the Scuola perfetta is a garbled reprint of 
parts of the Summa de Arith?netica brought out by some enterprising 
publisher on the expiration in 1504 of the ten years' privilege attaching 
to that important work. 

Several translations of the part of Pacioli's book which deals with 
book-keeping were published in the nineteenth century. It was first trans- 
lated into German by Dr. E. L. Jager as part of his book Lucas Paccioli 
unci Simon Stevin nebst einigen jungeren Schriftsteilern iiber Buchhaltung. 
Prof. Vincenzo Gitti next published a modern Italian version at Turin 
in 1878. Since that time it has been translated into Russian by 

(i) Neues Vollstandiges und allgemeines Lehrbuch des Buchhaltens fiir jede Art der 
Handlung passend . . . Entworfen . . . von Andreas Wagner. 4"^. Magdeburg, 1802. 

(2) V. Vianello. Luca Paciolo nella storie delta ragioneria. pp. 58-61. 

« g S ,g r a '- | ' - ^ i H-V jjii &itili '* ! ! ^ 



Waldenberg (St. Petersburg, 1893), into Dutch, under the title Paciuolo's 
Verhandding over de Koopmansboelzhouding, published at Rotterdam in 
1896, and into Bohemian by Kheil. This last translation has the merit 
of being accompanied by a trustworthy literal reprint of the original 
edition, than which it is much more convenient for working purposes. 

Late in 19 14 the whole of Pacioli's book-keeping chapter was 
published in facsimile, together with a free translation into English, by 
Mr. John B. Geijsbeek,i ^ Certified Public Accountant of Denver, 
Colorado. This book should prove very useful to historical students of 
book-keeping, but it does not add to our bibliographical knowledge. 


The Summa de Aritlimetica had a wide influence in Europe. The 
chapters on book-keeping were adapted and translated many times in the 
course of the succeeding century, and indeed where they are not directly 
copied it is usually evident that the authors of books on accounts were 
familiar with Pacioli's tract. 

The Summa de Arithmetica is, as has been mentioned, an exceedingly 
unhandy book, and by the year 1534^ must have been looked upon as 
very old-fashioned in form. In that year there appeared at Venice an 
adaptation of the De scripturis by Domenico Manzoni of Oderzo, entitled 
Quaderno Doppio col suo Giornale. It is a small quarto in italic letter, 
published by Comin di Tridino, who must have found it a valuable 
property, judging by the number of editions which it passed through. 
The real importance of the book is that it gives full examples of the 
Inventory, Journal and Ledger carried out in the name of Alvise 
Vallaresso, the author's patron, to whom also the book is dedicated. 


(i) J. B. Geijsbeek. Amient Double -Entry Book-keeping. 4". Denver, Colorado, 


(2) The date 1534 for Manzoni is given on the authority of Cerboni's Elenco Crono- 
logico, and has been extensively quoted, but no copy of the first edition is mentioned in 
that work, and the edition of 1540, of which a copy is in the Institute of Chartered 
Accountants, is the earliest available for examination. 





These examples occupy over three-quarters of the book, and are pro- 
nounced by Mr. Brown to be very careful work. The remaining 19 leaves 
contain the substance of the De Computis, rearranged,^ and to some extent 
rewritten in more literary Italian than Pacioli's rather awkward and Latin- 
bestrewn sentences. At the end of his Preface to the Reader, Manzoni dis- 
claims any aspiration to style in these words : " Dear reader, do not expect 
any ornamental language but my pure mother-tongue, which I have learnt 
in ordinary conversation, because I have no object but to make you an 
expert book-keeper: fine language I must learn from others." In the later 
editions he is more confident, and one can only hope that the following 
is not an ungrateful hit at Fra Luca, from whom he has stolen most of the 
material for his book : " With regard to style, I have contrived to speak 
pure Italian, and not mincing and affected Tuscan." I am afraid that this 
probably refers to Fra Luca's Tuscan birthplace, Borgo San Sepolcro. 

In 1564 what was at least the fourth edition of Manzoni's book 
appeared from the same publisher under the new title Libro mercantile 
orditiato col sico Giornale et Alfabeio. This contains nearly all the matter 
of the earlier editions, slightly rearranged and with certain additions. 
Ch. 15 of 1540, the instructions for using the table of all the entries in the 
journal and ledger, is placed at the end of the book, and an explanation 
of roman numerals as used in books of account is in its place. The 
ledger, which was formerly called Quaderno, is now called Libro Maestro. 
At the end of the ledger are directions for making an index, or estratto 
semplice, in which the names occurring in the ledger are arranged alpha- 
betically under their Christian names. This is followed by the Instruction 
for using the Table already mentioned, after which is another elaborate 
chapter of directions for making what is described as an Alfabeto Doppio. 
In this index entries are arranged under Christian names as before, and 
each letter is again sub-divided alphabetically under cognotne, or surnames. 

(l) Mr. J. B. Geijsbeek {Ancient Double- Entry Book-keeping, p. 29) gives a useful 
table showing the correspondences between Pacioli, Manzoni, Pietra Indirizzo degli 
Economiy and Ympyn Nieuwe Instructie. 


■'yasi^iisMm • 

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At the end of the book are 12 pages of calligraphic wood-cuts, the work of 
two famous writers of the day, Francesco Alunno and Frate Vespasiano 
Anfiareo. The leaves containing these wood-cuts are often missing, but 
copies of all editions from 1564 onwards should contain them. It may be 
mentioned that copies dated 1573 and 1574 do not in any true sense 
belong to separate editions, the unsold copies of 1573 having been hand- 
stamped with an extra I at the end of the roman numerals giving the date. 


We may now trace the spread of the Italian method of book-keeping 
by noticing the books which appeared in the other countries of Europe, 
incorporating with varying exactness the matter contained in Dist. IX, 
Tract. XI of the Sunima de Arithmetica. 

At Antwerp in 1543 there appeared in Dutch,^ and in the same 
year in French, 2 a book by Jehan Ympyn Christoffels which is mainly a 
literal translation of Pacioli's book-keeping treatise, though in parts it is 
considerably amplified. Curiously enough it seems that Ympyn did not 
know to whom he was indebted for the greater part of his book, for he 
mentions Pacioli in his preface without any particular acknowledgment, 
and then goes on to say that he has obtained the treatise which follows 
from one Jehan Paulo de Biancy at Venice. All researches on the part of 
Kheil to discover who this personage was resulted in failure ; it is most 
probable that he was a Venetian merchant who had used Pacioli's book 
and rewritten parts of it for his own use in the light of practical experience. 

However Ympyn became possessed of the material for his book he 
died before its publication, and both the Dutch and French editions were 
published by his widow, Anna Swinters. 

(1) Nietnve Imtitutie aide beivijs dcr looffelijcher Consten des Rekenboechs. Fol. 
Antwerp, 1543. 

(2) Native lie Instruction, et remonstration de la tres excel lente Sci'ece du liure dc 
Compte. 4". Antwerp, 1543. There is a copy of this in B.M. It is not a folio as 
described by Kheil. 

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Ympyn's book was also translated into English. The only known 
copy of the English translation is in the Library of the Nicolai Museum 
at Reval.i 

This translation, which appeared in 1547, is entitled A notable and 
very excellente woorke ho7V to keepe a bote of accomptes, and is not to be 
confused with another work of very similar title concerning which I am 
about to give such facts as are known. 


A difficulty in writing of the early bibliography of book-keeping is 
the rarity of the books described. They were not books for the library, 
and were exposed to influences as destructive as the "puerorum unguibus " 
complained of by Dr. Leedes, the book -loving headmaster of Bury 
Grammar School. Of many of the books mentioned in this paper there 
exist, so far as has been ascertained, only one or two copies, and 
unfortunately the first English book on book-keeping does not seem to 
have survived at all. Our knowledge of the book is drawn from a reprint 
of it which appeared in 1588. This is entitled A briefe instruction and 
maner ho2v to keepe bookes of Acconipts ... by John Mellis, a Southwark 
schoolmaster. In the address To the Reader in this book are these 
words : " And knowe ye for certaine, that I prefume ne ufurpe not to 
let forth this worke of mine owne labour and induftrie, for truly I am 
but the renuer and reuiuer of an auncient old copie printed here in 
London the 14. of Auguft. 1543. Then collected, and publifhed, made 
and fet forth by one Hugh Oldcaftle Scholemafter, who as appeareth by 
his treatife then taught Arithmetike, and this booke in Saint Ollaves 
parifh in Marke Lane." 

In spite of this precise information, no other trace of the existence 
of Oldcastle's book is to be found except that given by B. F. Foster in 
the preface to his Origin and Progress of Book-keeping, 18^2. Foster 

(i) It was first described by Dr. Hugo Balg in the Zeltschrift fiir Bnch/ialtun^ 
April, 1893. 


BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 155 

gives (p. 8) the exact title of Oldcastle's book, and, the bibliographers 
being silent, it is difficult to imagine where he can have found this unless 
it was from a copy of the book itself. 

We know, however, from Mellis' reprint of 1588 that Oldcastle was 
little more than a literal translator of Pacioli. The chapters on banking 
are omitted and certain others not in accordance with English usage 
remodelled. Oldcastle adds certain new features — a description of the 
profit and loss account, and a revised method of keeping the books of 
small shops. ^ 


This was the book which first brought the Italian method to England, 
in the same year in which Ympyn's Nieuwe Instricctie gave it to Dutch 
and French readers. Six years later the only German book which belongs 
directly to the Pacioli School appeared at Niirnberg. This was Wolfgang 
Schweicker's Zivifach Buchhalten^- printed by Johann Petreius, who had 
already published a book of more primitive type by Johann Gottlieb. 

Schweicker takes Manzoni for his model and follows him closely. 
The specimen books of account, however, which illustrate the book, are 
Schweicker's own work, and very carefully executed they are. It will 
scarcely be believed that in a work which professes to teach the science 
of book-keeping, the final balance is wrong by more than 100 florins. 


• Before leaving the subject of books inspired by the chapter in 
Pacioli's Summa de Arithmetica, there is one more to be noticed, though 

(i) Pacioli's chapters 7, ii, 18, 19 are omitted. The correspondence of other 
chapters is as follows : 

Mellis 15 = Tacioli 26. Mellis 20 = Pacioli 31. Mellis 22 = Pacioli t^t,. 

,, 19= n 28. ,, 21= ,, 32. ,, 25= ,, 36. 

At the end of his reprint Mellis give specimen books of account. 

(2) Zwifach Buchhalten sampt seinen Giornal des selben Beschlus, auch Rcchnuti^:::; 
zuthun &^c. Durch Wolfgang Schweicker Senior, von Niirnberg, yciz in Vcnedig 
wonend mit allevi Jteis getiiacht und ziisamen brcuht. 

« i 


. 1 



*<' "" i«ii «" ■■ *■ >■ • < » ■" ■ 


BOO/rS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 

.t was not published with the object of instructing merchants in a correct 
method of boolc-lceeping. This is Jerome Cardan's Fractica Arithmetice, 
pubhshed at Milan by Bernardino Calusco in ,535.. A great part of 
th.s book deals with errors detected by Cardan in the Summa de 
Anthmeuca. Chapter 60, however, which is a short and quite remarkably 
clear exposition of the principles of double entry, does not amend the 
Tractatus de scripturis. There are no examples, and the author's aim is 

T r T^T '^" "°"''^"''' book-keeper, but to summarise a science 
which had been considered worthy by Pacioli to rank as a branch of 
applied mathematics. Cardan was not satisfied that he had made the 
matter clear, for he says at the end of the chapter : " So much will 
suffice for the expert. But to the inexperienced in this science I do not 
think that I could make it clear even if I had taken up this whole book 
in explaining it." 


Having now described the books on book-keeping which are directly 
related to the Summz de Arithmetical it will be well to take the countries 
of Europe in turn, and consider the books published in each in which no 
part of Pacoh's text is incorporated, though the principles he describes are 
used to a greater or less extent in all of them. 

The great commercial activities of Italy in the sixteenth century must 
have kept many hundreds of book-keepers busy, and in spite of that 
propensity among merchants to trust to luck, which is still common there 
was evidently a demand for instruction in the science of book-keeping In 
1525 Giovann' Antonio Tagliente published at Venice two short cuts to 
book-keeping which are the forerunners of many hundreds of \ B C 
methods published in all ages down to the present day. 

Of these two pamphlets one describes double, the other single entry 
The first IS a quarto of 24 leaves with no title-page. On the recto of a i is 

work! S^IisSTatl^tSenlf ,^^^\,7;;^ ^'^ T^^^ ^^'^'"" "^ ^^^-"^ 

Gitti at Turin in 1SS2 •" ^^^^^^' °" book-keeping by Prof. Vine. 

BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 157 

a short preface stating that the author, considering how necessary it is for 
gentlemen and merchants to understand the method of keeping accounts, 
has composed this guide with the help of Maestro Alvise de la Fontana. 
The body of the book is taken up with rules for describing all sorts of 
transactions, three or four to a page, each immediately succeeded by an 
example. On the recto of the last leaf is a colophon^ stating that the tide 
of the work is Luminario di Arithmetica. 

The other pamphlet, describing single entry (libro ugnolo) consists 
of 16 leaves only, and begins in the same way on ai with a preface in 
which Tagliente says how necessary he considers single entry book- 
keeping for merchants and " Artesani " — the libro doppio, as stated above, 
being addressed to gentlemen and merchants. In this book the rules 
and examples are in large type and only one to each page. At the end 
is a colophon in the same form as before, and giving the book the same 
name of Lu7?iinario di Arithmetica, though the pamphlets are perfectly 
distinct, and intended for the use of different classes. 

An octavo edition of the Libro Doppio was printed in 1533 and was 
succeeded by various leaflets of the same character which were published 
from time to time in Venice. 

The first of these successors of Tagliente in order of date is a little 
octavo of 8 leaves, entitled Opera che ifisegna a tener libro doppio, e a 
far partite, e ragio?i de Banchi, e de Mercaiitie, e a riportare le partite. 
Nouamente stampata. This was printed in 1539, and resembles Tagliente's 
Libro ugnolo in arrangement. In 1551 Bartolommeo Fontana, Tagliente's 
collaborator, set his name to a badly printed little brochure of 4 leaves 
entitled Aminaestramento ?wuo che insegna a te?ter libro ordinaria??ietite ad 
nso di questa inclita citta di Venezia. A rather more ambitious pamphlet 
of the same year is Un ?nodo novamente ritrovato chHnsegna tefier libro 

(i) The British Museum copy of this book has the colophon slightly reset, but in other 
respects it resembles the copy at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. There is an 
article on Tagliente's accounting books by Signor P. Rigobon in the Ragioniere for 1894 
(Serie II, Vol. X). 


. f 







doppto. Th,s consists of 12 leaves, and offers information varying from 
the cutting of pens to the rates of exchange between the principal towns 
Of Italy. Fontana's Ammae^tramento nuavo was republished in 1,8, in 
an enlarged form extending to 8 leaves. 

All these books are of the chap book order and no doubt many 
others of the same kind circulated in Venice at this time of which copies 
nave not been preserved. 


In 1558 Comin di Tridino, the publisher of Manzoni's Quaderno 
dopp,o prmted a book of more importance. This was Alvise Casanova's 
Speccino iuaJusuno. There is in this book a preface in the form of a 
d.alogue between the author and a friend, in which Casanova refers in 
honourable terms to Pacioli and Manzoni. He then goes on to say that 
many years before he had seen a little quarto book at the house of a 
fnend written by one Tagliente, who kept a writing-school, and that he 
has also heard the Blind Hawker on the Rialto bridge chanting the title 
of a book which teaches the usual method of book-keeping. This is 
Fontanas brochure already mentioned. Casanova's friend answers by 
begging h,m not to repeat the hawker's cry. He has seen the books and 
they are only fit to wrap sardines in. 

Casanova's book is written with a special purpose. Pacioli and 
Manzoni had failed to deal with the accounts of companies or 
partnerships-Pacoli avoiding the point by recommending that the 
accounts should be kept separately.' Casanova supposes the case of 
two brothers who build a ship which they send on foreign ventures 
in which ,s invested the capital of several merchants. He gives ex- 
amples of the accounts at length, and also those of agents or factors 
who buy and sell for their masters and have to account for money and 
goods received. ^ 

(r) Brambilla, p. 66. 


I ' y will .K ii i i iiin^ ' w 1 iiiii i ii ,111 m i ir ^ I m<m > m ' ^"0" ' 

— ■■ ■ W» iO 





In 1573 there appeared at Venice a small octavo entitled Del/a 
Mercatura et del Mercante perfetto. This has attained some unmerited 
fame from the fact that it claims in the colophon to have been written in 
the year 1463 " apud castrum Serpici," near Naples, by one Benedetto 
Cotrugli of Ragusa. If this is true, the three pages devoted to book- 
keeping are the earliest known theoretical writing on the subject. But 
in any case they are not of great importance as they do no more than 
mention the three books, memorial, journal, and ledger without any 
attempt to explain their use. A second edition of this book, Brescia, 
1602, is in the British Museum, and Dr. Kheil has written a pamphlet 
reprinting the chapter on book-keeping and discussing its importance.^ 


But the best author of the century in Italy, and the only one who 
makes any improvement on Pacioli, is Don Angelo Pietra, a monk of the 
Benedictine house of San Giovanni Battista d'Oriana. In 1586 he 
published his Indirizzo degli Eco7iomi at Mantua. It is a small folio 
treating of the accounts of monasteries, and is a careful and efficient piece 
of work. The novelty in theory introduced by Pietra is the analysing of 
journal entries in great detail in the ledger. 

This monastic book of accounts is certainly the clearest and easiest 
to follow that we have met with so far. It would be difficult to judge 
if Pietra, and his successor, the Jesuit Flori in the seventeenth century, 
had any influence on mercantile book-keeping, but it is certain that the 
business men had something to learn from the methodical treatment of 
these monastic authors. 


It has already been mentioned that a book founded on the Quaderno 
doppio of Manzoni had been published at Niirnberg in 1549. Before, 

(i) Benedetto Cotrugli Raugeo. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Bzichhaltung. 
Vienna, 1 906. 

. 1 

■^^"' rii^'1'1 

. tni |i..i,ii^- I II ■ ,, ^ I,.. , nim^^,!^ J ^1 ji ^ ,-,! ____^ 

I 60 

^OOA'i' OiV ^CCOfWTViA'Cn 1494-1600. 

however, the original work of PacioH had thus found its way into Germany, 
at least three works on double-entry book-keeping had been published, 
he authors of were more or less conversant w,th Italian methods, 
though their books contain certain distinctively German features. 

The earliest of these is a small octavo of very varied contents by 
Henoch Schre,ber, or Henricus Grammateus as he began to call himself 
after takmg h.s master's degree at Vienna in 15 18. The title occupies 

Schreiber's book was printed at Ntirnberg in 153: > by Johann Stuchs 
for the well-known Viennese publisher Lucas Alantsee, about an eighth 
part of n bemg devoted to a very rough account of BuMaUen durck 
Carnal Kaps u„d Schuldthuch. The curious word Kaps or Capus for 
which there is no satisfactory etymology, indicates a book devoted to 
the impersonal accounts of the ledger, which it was the German practice 
to keep in a separate book. 

Schreiber's only merit is that of being first in the field, .nd even 
German authors are inclined to accept Mr. Row Fogo's estimate, when 
he says : " It seems better on the whole not to trouble to find out the 
anthmetic master's intentions, for it is extremely improbable that he 
himself knew much about what he was professing to teach." Nevertheless 
the New Kunstlich Buech was reprinted many times ^' and one Jacob 
Kaltenbrunner, who published an arithmetic in 1565, incorporated the 
book-keepmg portion of Schreiber's work without acknowledgment in 
nis book. 

( JsV r«:m.;VDr.'p"„ld:rf t::.;?;,!":^/^""' ^■■^-f l- '^.S it has been asserted 

in that year, \ut' the examples ^n^oks oft co1nt''arr^l,'ed\t "t T P""''^'^^'' 
reason for supposing that it did not appear tillthatSlte. ^ ' "^ ^"'" S°°'' 

(2) According to Dr. Penndorf there were editions i„ ,f,, a o , 
certainly .printed in .544 and at Frankfort .n ^snlZ shght^va^ytg'^t. '' "" 

BOO/^S ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 



Numerous works on book-keeping appeared in Germany from this 
time onward. Dr. Penndorf has described them in a careful chapter of 
his history of book-keeping in Germany, so it will only be necessary to 
review the German books generally, giving such additional details as may 
seem useful. 

The first book published in Germany which is entirely devoted to 
book-keeping is Johann Gottlieb's Ein Teutsch verstendig Buchhalten fur 
Berren Oder Gese/schaffter. 40. Nurnberg, 1531. This first edition is very 
rare. Two or possibly three copies are recorded in Germany, and there is 
one at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. It consists of only 22 
leaves, but unlike Schreiber's exposition it is the work of a man with 
practical experience, for Gottlieb is known 1 to have held an administrative 
post in Nurnberg. In his second work, Buchhaifen, zwei Kilnstliche vnnd 
verstendige Buchhalten, which appeared in 1546, he alleges this public 
work as the reason why he has not before brought out an improved 
edition of his earlier work. The new book gives fuller examples than 
the Teutsch verstendig Buchhalte?i, and omits or reduces to a more concise 
form much of the text of the latter. Gottlieb's second book was printed 
by John Petreius, the bookseller who three years later undertook the 
publication of Schweiker's Zwifach Buchhalten. 


In the interval between the publication of Gottlieb's two books there 
appeared in 1537 Buchhalten auff Preussische miintze by Erhardt von 
Ellenbogen, a schoolmaster at Danzig. This book was printed, for a 
reason which it is difficult to understand, at the distant town of Wittenberg, 
and has become extremely rare. The only copy at present known is in 
the University Library at Konigsberg, and of this there is an accurate 
transcription by Dr. Kheil in the Institute of Chartered Accountants. 
Ellenbogen begins his preface by saying that he learnt book-keeping in 

(i) Penndorff, p. 113. 



' ■*^!%.-aSsJ g^t^^gi^jg ^-i:, 

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-^■- ...-^^ 



three hours, a statement which has a familiar ring to those who are 
acquainted with a certain class of book-keeping manual at the present 
day. His book is, however, commended by Dr. Penndorf as in certain 
respects an advance on Gottlieb's first attempt of six years earlier. 


The first book to appear after the publication in 1549 of Schweicker's 
translation of Manzoni was an anonymous folio entitled Undtcrricht eines 
ganizen Handelbuchs, printed at Frankfort in 1559. This book stands 
entirely out of the line of advance so far as the progress of the Italian 
system of double entry in Germany is concerned, though it is an excellent 
piece of work in its own way. It deals exhaustively with the accounts 
to be kept by agents on behalf of their masters for goods bought and 
sold in various parts of the country, and thus it is comparable to the last 
section of Casanova's Specchio lucidissimo which had appeared at Venice 
the year before. The German book is much more detailed and the system 
it describes is more complicated, but in some ways the two correspond 


In the library of the Nikolai-Gymnasium at Reval is a most interestin<T 
volume containing four books on accounting. The first is the unique 
copy of the English edition of Ympyn's Nieuwe Instructie, which has 
already been described. The second book is a copy of Schweicker's 
Zwifach Buchhalten of 1549, and the third is a book which is described 
by Dr. Penndorf as the most important work on book-keeping which 
appeared in Germany during the sixteenth century. It is also extremely 
rare ; the only other copy at present recorded is to be found at Danzig. 
The title of the book is as follows :" Buchhalteti durch Zwey Bikher nach 
Italia?iischer Art vnd weise gestellt Durch Sebastian Gamers/eider von 
Passaiv Burger vnd Deudscher Schulmeister zu Dantzigk . . . 1510. 

The two known copies of this book differ in the following way. The 
Reval copy has a short conclusion in which Gammersfelder answers the 

BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 163 

question asked by the reader as to how a German schoolmaster, who has 
no commercial experience, is able to write a work on book-keeping. In 
the copy at Danzig the conclusion {Schlusswort) is longer, and the author 
explains that just as Schweicker^ and Ympyn, whom he mentions by 
name, did not invent the science of book-keeping, but relied on the 
Italian practice of many hundred years, so he has made use of their 
books in learning the science of which he writes. 

Dr. Hugo Balg of Reval has described Gammersfelder's book in a 
series of twelve articles which appeared in the Zeitschrift fur Buchhaltung 
in 1900. He has the highest praise for the clearness of the schoolmaster's 
directions and for the manner in which the examples are selected so as 
to illustrate varying classes of entries systematically and without repetition. 
This praise is repeated by Dr. Penndorf, who calls the Buchhalten durch 
zivci Bucher the earliest useful book on accounting in the German 


There is at Danzig a copy of another book on book-keeping printed 
in that town two years later in 1572. It is described by Dr. Penndorf 
as being an imitation of Gammersfelder's book. It is partly in rhyme, 
and Penndorf's account conveys the impression that it belongs to the 
class, of which we have already seen something, of short-cut or cra'^m books. 


The last work on book-keeping published in Germany in the sixteenth 
century is by a Huguenot refugee from the Low Countries named 
Passchier Goessens. It was issued at Hamburg in 1594 and is more 
remarkable for clearness of arrangement and handsome appearance than 
for any technical advance in method. It is one of the few early books 
on accounting which seems to be fairly common, though whether this 
implies popularity or the reverse it is diflficult to say. A copy in the 

(I) Gammersfelder calls him Simon Schweicker, though his name as it aooears on 
the title-page of the Zwifach Buchhalten is Wolfgang. ^^ " 

M 2 




Institute of Chartered Accountants is interesting for its binding, which is 
in the style used for books of account in the seventeenth century. The 
bands are cut off short instead of being laced in, and two separate cords 
are passed under the bands, and secured by passing them through the 
back of the binding, which is stiffened with a strip of strong card. This 
binding is dated 1637. 


Another German whose works appeared in the second half of the 
sixteenth century was Valentin Mennher of Kempten, in Bavaria. He 
was a teacher of mathematics at Antwerp, and in 1550 published a mathe- 
matical work^ in French, with a section on accounting. This comprises 
a short preface, a specimen Journal and Ledger, and an Index to the 
Ledger. The Ledger is termed Liiire de Defies, a literal translation of the 
German Schuldbuch, and the book next following is simply the German 
Kaps or Giiterlnich, translated by Mennher Liure de Marchandises. The 
only copy of this first edition, which is in the University Library at Leyden, 
has bound up with it a second part, published by the same printer, 
Jan Loe of Antwerp, in 1556. This comprises a second treatise on 
arithmetic, and ethers on algebra and geometry. At the end of this 
second part is a Conclusion in which Mennher says that in the meantime 
his first book, that is, the Practique brifve of 1550, has been republished 
at Lyons " in good type and with the style much improved, but from lack 
of knowledge the figures are thrown very much out of order." This Lyons 
edition is stated by Hagers in his Bibliography to have appeared in the 
year 1555 from the press of Eustache Barricat, but he does not say where 
a copy is to be found. 

In the Conclusion of 1556 Mennher also complains that French is not 
natural to him, but that none the less he has done his best. In 1560, 
however, he determined to do himself full justice, and in that year he 

(l) Practiqjie brifue pour cyfrer et tenir liures de Compte touchant le principal train 
de Marchandise. P. M. Valentin Afefiuher de Kempten. A facsimile reprint of the 
book-keeping section, by Dr. J. G. Ch. Volmer, appeared at Utrecht in 1894. 

BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 165 

persuaded Christopher Plantin to print the book-keeping part of his 
Pradtque, with many additions and improvements, in a handsome folio 
and m German. The book is entitled Buechhalten, durch Mich Valentin 
Mennhe., Diser Zeit Rechenmeister alhie zu Antorf verordnet. The book 
consists of 24 leaves, and the only new features are a short Address to the 
Reader and a four-page explanation of his book-keeping, Bericht zum 
Buechhalten. There is also a Register fur den Jornal which consists of 
short rules for making each journal entry. The German Caps or GiUer- 
buch ,s retained and the Profit and Loss Account, whose absence from the 
Practtque of 1550 has been pointed out by Dr. Penndorf, is absent here 
also. The only known copy of this edition is in the Musee Plantin The 
late Dr. Max Rooses kindly sent this interesting volume to the British 
Museum for n.y use. Bound up in it I was surprised to find a copy of 
the edition of 1563, which was unknown to Kheil, and the discovery of 
which in the Staatsbibliothek at Augsburg was first announced by Dr 
Penndorf This is a second German edition, printed by Egidius 
Copemus von Diest^ at Antwerp, and contains various emendations of 
the Plantin edition published three years before. The Address to the 
Reader is developed into a dedicatory epistle to George Zimmerman of 
Danzig. 1 he Bericht zum Buchlmlten, now called Vnderrichtun« discs 
Buechhaltens, has been extended and illustrated with specimen entries 
The Regtster fur den Jornal is not reprinted as a separate item, but its 
several parts appear in the Journal itself, printed next the entries 
which they describe. The Gilterbuch disappears, its headings being in- 
cluded m the ledger according to Italian practice, and finally, the Profit 
and Loss Account makes its appearance for the time in Mennher's writmcs 
as a distinct heading. 

In 1565 Mennher published a mathematical work in octavo which 
contains a rearrangement of the same material which composed his French 
treatise of ,550. It is entitled Practique four brieuement af prendre a 

(1) The book is a folio, not a quarto as stated by Dr. Penndorf. 

(2) The pubhsher of Ympyn's Nieume Imtructie, 1543. 

1 ; 





"^ BOCA'S OAT ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 

Ciffrer, c^ temr Liure de Comptes, avec la Regie de Cojs, Geometrie. 
Twenty four leaves with the sub-title Secondc partie de ce Liure contain 
the book-keeping section, and this part is dated 1564. The Ledger is 
now called by its correct French name Le Grand Liure, and the improve- 
ments of the 1563 German edition are incorporated. A full comparison 
of the editions of 1550 and 1565 will be found in Kheil's Valentin 
Mennher und Antich Rocha, Prag, 1898. 


In 1565 Mennher's first book was translated into Spanish and 
appeared anonymously in a small octavo ^ at Barcelona. It is sometimes 
found bound at the end of the Arithmetica of Antich Rocha, which 
appeared from the same publisher, Claudio Bornat, in 1564. In the list 
of authorities consulted for this work is found the name of Valentin 
Mennher, and thus it may be assumed that Rocha was the translator. 
Mennher's original edition has the text printed lengthwise on each page, 
an arrangement which has not been adhered to in the translation, and 
it is evidence of considerable carelessness on the part of either translator 
or printer that this alteration has thrown out the alphabetical order of the 
ledger index, and the mistake has been left uncorrected. This translation 
of Mennher was however the first book with examples of merchants' 
accounts which appeared in Spain by more than 25 years, and its readers 
were no doubt grateful for what they could get. 


It would be surprising if any book on accounting in the Dutch 
language had appeared between the years 1543 and 1588. The Dutch 
were exerting all their energies in the struggle with Spain and commerce 
must have been almost at a standstill. It is probable that Mennher's 
book sufficed for such needs as there were, and evidence that they were 
in use in Holland is given by the fact that the next book of importance 

(I) Not quarto as stated by Kheil. Valentin Mennher und Antich Roclia. p. 50. 

BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494-1600. 167 

which was written in Dutch bears evident traces of his influence. This 
was a book by Nicolaus Petri 1 which is said to have appeared at 
Amsterdam in 1588.2 

Though the influence of Mennher is traceable in Petri's book, 
Mr. Row Fogo has shown that there is a great technical advance on the 
former, though not greater than between the earlier and later editions of 
Mennher's own book. 

w. p. 

Petri's book has a special interest for us, as the book-keeping part 
was translated into English in 1596 by one W. P. The translation forms 
part of a mathematical work entitled The Pathway to Knowledge. The 
only copy I have seen, unfortunately wanting its title-page, is in the 
library of the Society of Incorporated Accountants and Auditors. The 
full title, according to Mr. Brown, is The Pathway to Knowledge. Con- 
teyning certaine briefe Tables of English waights, &- Measures. And 
lastly the Order of Keeping of a Marchanfs booke, after the Ltalian 
manner, by Debitor &^ Creditor . . . Written in Dutch, 6- translated 
into English by W. P. London ijg6. 

The books on accounting other than translations of Pacioli which 
appeared in England, France and Spain in the sixteenth century may be 
mentioned very briefly. The only English books are two interesting folios 
by James Peele, the father of George Peele the dramatist. The first of 
these appeared ten years after Oldcastle in 1553, and the second, a very 
much enlarged treatise, in 1569. The poet's father practised the art 
himself and both books contain pieces of verse which cannot be said to 
reach a very high level, but are sometimes not mere doggerel. His poem 

(I) Practicque omte leeren Rekenen Cypheren end Boekhouwen. 

m}^^ ^ copy of this edition wanting its title-page is in the Public Library at 
Kotterdam, and Petri mentions this first edition in the preface to the book-keeuinp 
portion of the second edition which was printed at Alkmaar in 1596 in octavo 

■, 1 

\ f 



1 68 


called An exhortation to learne sciences belongs rather to the fifteenth than 
to the sixteenth century in form, but is evidently the work of one who 
took more than a casual interest in literature. The only perfect copy 
which is known to me of Peele's first book is included in the Kheil 
Collection and is now at the Institute of Chartered Accountants. 

The French translations of Ympyn and the little book laboriously 
composed in that language by Mennher are the first French books on 
accounting which appeared. The Lyons reprint of Mennher's first book 
in 1555 is the earliest printed in Pmnce itself. Twelve years after, also 
at Lyons, there appeared the first native French book by Pierre de 
Savonne. This book is mentioned by Reymondin, but he does not say 
where a copy is to be seen, and there does not seem to be one in 
England. An Arithmetic by Martin Fustel, published at Paris in 1588, 
has a chapter on book-keeping with examples of the Journal and Ledger. 
Dr. Kheil made one of his accurate transcripts of this book. This is 
now in the Institute of Chartered Accountants. The Institute also pos- 
sesses in this form the Instruction nouuelle pour tenir le liure de Compte 
of Bartelmy de Renterghem which appeared at Antwerp in 1592. This is 
a more important book, and in the preface are mentioned, and very fairly 
criticised, many of Renterghem's forerunners. Most of the names in his 
list are familiar, but there is one, Martin Wensseslaus, like Renterghem, an 
inhabitant of Aix, whose works do not appear to have been preserved. 

The history of book-keeping in Spain during the sixteenth century is 
also scanty, for the commercial energy of the country ran in a different 
channel from the peaceable exchanges of the Venetian trader and did not 
lend themselves to elaborate record. The translation of Mennher by 
Antich Rocha already mentioned is the first work giving examples of books 
kept by double entry which appeared in the language. In an Arithmetic 
by Caspar de Texada, printed at Valladolid in 1546, there is a chapter 
occupying 10 pages on what is called the Horden de Contadores. This 
deals with the accounts to be kept by the stewards of landowners, but 
there is no mention of double entry and no examples are given. 

BOOKS ON ACCOUNTANCY, 1494- 1600. 169 

The only book of the century which is really of Spanish origin is 
Salvador de Solorzano's Libro de Caxa, which appeared at Madrid in 
1590. It is a quarto giving 53 leaves of explanation, and a specimen 
journal and ledger, the former containing 148 entries. This work has 
not been described by the historians of book-keeping, but it must suffice 
to say that Solorzano's book is entirely independent of direct influence 
by Pacioli and that he has a very good grasp of root principles. His 
explanations are, however, extremely prolix and it appears from the 
examples given that Spanish practice must have lagged behind that of 
the rest of Europe. In Solorzano's ledger, for example, there is no profit 
and loss account, and the only balance of the books is to be found in a 
not very detailed account headed Saiida deste libro. Roman numerals 
are used throughout the book for recording sums of money, a practice 
which was very old-fashioned in 1590. It is true that a certain amount 
of prejudice against the use of arabic figures in books of account remained 
in the South of Europe during the sixteenth century. Manzoni uses 
arabic figures in his journal in 1540, but clings to the old usage in his 
ledger, as being the more formal document. In later editions however 
it is thought necessary to give an explanation of the roman system, and 
Casanova in 1558 dispenses with it altogether, but 40 years later in Spain 
roman numerals were still in regular use, as we see from Solorzano's 
specimen books. 

We have now seen the spread of the famous Italian system of 
book-keeping over the various countries of Europe and noticed the most 
important books, both those containing the work of Lucas Pacioli and 
those which describe the same method in different words. Something 
may perhaps be gathered from the places of origin of the books 
bearing on the commercial state of Europe in the Renaissance period. 
The fact that the first book in German was sold by a Viennese book- 
seller may be connected with the movement eastward which the great 
European trade route from Italy is known to have undergone in 
the sixteenth century, and that several books appeared at Danzig and 









none at Liibeck may point the same way. It is not however within 
the scope of this paper to follow up these considerations. My aim 
has rather been to provide some future historian of Book-keeping, or 
indeed of Commerce generally, with an intelligible guide to the earliest 
text-books on the subject of his study. 

_ ,pl#iii**e«a^«B»«s*.>«ti«:w«»?'-!r:-' 

IY\^H O^oO^ 

MAY 2 41994 




JflN 1 5 19 

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